The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report on the value for money of Ofsted inspection of schools.
The NAO found that “as a result of decisions by the Department and Ofsted, the level of independent assurance about schools’ effectiveness has reduced”, pointing to ‘outstanding’ schools being exempt from inspection and the move to short inspections for ‘good’ schools.
84% of headteachers surveyed by the NAO said that the outcome of their school’s most recent inspection was fair. This finding is similar to that of NGA and Tes’ annual survey, which in 2017 found that 81% of responding governors and trustees thought their school’s most recent report gave a fair assessment.
The NAO found that assessing the impact of Ofsted inspection on standards of education is not straightforward. 44% of headteachers said that inspection had led to improvements in their school while 71% agreed that inspectors provided useful feedback. 99% of Ofsted inspectors who are also serving practitioners said that the knowledge and experience gained was valuable to their own school(s).
The report acknowledges the action that Ofsted has taken to prevent inspection creating unnecessary workload, for example its myth-busting campaign, but found that these messages have not reached all teachers.
The NAO concludes that “Ofsted provides valuable independent assurance about schools’ effectiveness and as such is a vital part of the school system” but makes a number of recommendations for improvement:
the DfE should work with Ofsted to review whether the inspection framework and resourcing provide enough independent assurance about the quality of schools;
the DfE should work with Ofsted to set out and communicate the different roles of those involved in school accountability;
Ofsted should set out a plan for recruiting and retaining inspectors;
Ofsted should review the effectiveness of its complaints process;
Ofsted should be transparent about how it is performing against its strategy;
Ofsted should take action to make reports more useful for parents.